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Vincentian youth- Building a legacy of peace and sustainable development

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Feature address – National Youth Awards 2008

If one is to honestly assess the work of the youth in our nation, one will safely conclude that although there may be a few areas for improvement, our youth are doing exceptionally well. In recent times, there has been an added zest among our young people to excel and to improve their performance in their respective fields.{{more}}

Our dream is becoming a reality. For the past ten years, the vision has been awakened that there is a dire need for an exceptional cadre of multi-talented Vincentian youth, who will be able to govern, not only their lives, but the future business of this blessed nation, the sub-region, in this instance the OECS; the region, in our case CARICOM and its multi-dimensional structures; and the rest of the world. Now with a real chance to change the world, what is the next step?

In order to promote an environment of sustainable growth, our youth must first become active citizens. The maintenance of the structures within a democratic society relies upon its citizens being aware of their rights and responsibilities, informed about the social and political world in which they live, the welfare of others, and an opportunity to articulate their opinions and arguments, so that they can influence the circumstances around them.

In order for our youth to be successful, a keen interest must be generated and maintained for an enhancement in group interaction, which is carefully geared at creating the levels of participation needed to fuel a democracy. It is always an issue among the youth that their efforts are usually shot down, since their first steps to contributing are measured against perfections not even attained by those who built Roman Empires of old. Therefore, as our young people strive, we must ensure that the necessary support mechanisms are in place to encourage, and not to discourage their efforts.

We must begin to create a keener interest among our youth geared at showing ownership to the many developmental projects around us, since it is only then that we would be able to fully utilize in any creative manner the fullness of these resources. This effort must at all times be collective. A decline in community involvement by our youth has been identified by many as a challenge facing our communities. The prime reason being that community involvement has to compete with many modern distractions which are constantly stifling the urge to build stronger community groups for the benefit of all. It is, therefore, safe to suggest that our society is witnessing an evolution from a collective type oriented socialization to one which is individualistic for the most part. A balance is needed!

By way of solution, our community based organizations must take ownership of the process of making active citizens of our young people, and this must be cemented by a continued concerted effort by the Ministry of Youth Affairs as it works to create the requisite framework and support structures within which this process must operate. Our circumstances are ripe for an energetic national youth forum of which I pledge to play an integral part.

Whilst we speak of those among us who have excelled, we must never forget those whose names were not close to being mentioned here. It is in this light that we must appreciate that there is a need for us to continue as a people to bridge the gap between the successful and the unsuccessful youth. Once we work together we will be able to create new trends in youth expression.

Today, our nation has in countless ways and through countless young persons and youth organizations exhibited that we will spare no effort in ensuring that the talents of our young people are positively engaged in the process of national development. If one is to analyze the ascension of our nation’s youth to positions of great esteem in recent times, it is clear that the approach to entrust confidence in our youth is more than a one off event, instead it is a clear national policy.

Nevertheless, my encouragement to our youth will be less than complete if I fail to mention the need to work towards the creation of a violence free community.

The search for true answers in many instances is often much more difficult than the imagination can fully grasp. For many years, numerous stakeholders have sought to bring a higher level of civility among our people to ensure that aspects of violence resulting in other forms of criminal activities are kept at a minimum. The latest innovation is the “Pan Against Crime Programme”, which has taken root in the communities across our nation. However, despite many efforts, be they past or present, can we truly say that our youth are really taking heed? While the answer to this question is important in assisting us in adjusting our approach to the subject matter at hand, even if answered in the negative, it must not cause us to lose hope and consequently fail to try. We must never give up!

There is a mammoth task ahead for our young people. I hope that as youth we are not stating falsely to ourselves that we have achieved it all. We have not! In fact, we are far from completion. The cause evolves. Our cause is a constantly changing synthesis of ideas, thoughts, dreams and aspirations, so we must continuously change with the changing times. Adaptation and adjustment are key! We must work harder to ensure that the next generation does not have to contend with this persistence of violence among ourselves which results on many occasions in the death of our family members and friends. A must foster a society of peace.

If one looks at a fallen tree, many times it is difficult to visualize the beautiful furniture that can be made from such. When mention was first made of a need for a massive investment in our youth product in the form of an education revolution, it was really an attempt to establish a veritable training ground for our nation’s youth, to take on the challenges that we now face during this modern dispensation at a much younger age.

We are, therefore, to expect in times to come that more of our youth will be asked to plunge into the deep end of the work pool at younger ages. Simply, it is a product of a revolution in education.

I see a great day coming when we will have invested in our youth product so heavily that we will become a centre for academic learning in the sub-region and region, and act as a regional satellite shining radiantly from the south. That is a dream we must work extremely hard to realize with the sole intent of lifting national pride. It is only by adopting such an approach through the implementation of policies and programmes geared towards youth development that we can readily utilize the abundant resources of our youth, their energy and that of our people.

May God richly bless the youth of our nation as we continue to excel.

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.

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